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Mecca in the late 1920s saw foreign Islamic reformers balancing political realities with modernization efforts.  Photo: Corbis Mecca in the late 1920s saw foreign Islamic reformers balancing political realities with modernization efforts. Photo: Corbis

Chapter 6 – Walking a tightrope

Egyptian reformers in Mecca, 1928 – 29

When it comes to the development of modern Islamic reform in the 20th century, there is something of a blind spot in historical scholarship. While few would deny the rise in influence of Saudi emirs and their religious scholars within reformist circles from the 1920s onward, little is known about the details of the relationship between leading Islamic activists, especially Egyptians, and the newly created Saudi state. Historians have noted how Egypt-based reformers put their skills, reputations and even their printing presses at the service of the Saudis, thereby appearing to be more or less in line with the understanding of Islam that prevailed in Najd.

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